idiot box
Rating: 4/5

"I'll show ya a trick," Ben Mendelsohn's Kev repeatedly says to Jeremy Sims' Mick in David Caesar's electrifying new feature film, Idiot Box. Something wild always ensues. It's a line you can imagine the two producers of this equally rewarding soundtrack, You Am I's Tim Rogers and noted production head Nick Launay (silverchair, Midnight Oil), throwing at each other. As a mixture of covers and new tunes from some of Australia's leading alternative acts, Idiot Box captures the joy of priimal rock & roll, all delivered with bravura performances.

At the same time it brings back to light a few lost classics. In the hands of Magic Dirt, God's "My Pal" is an uncompromising last throw of the dice, ragged and nihilistic; You Am I smash their way through the early Perth punk stomp "Television Addict" ("Humphrey fucking Bear!") and Mark of Cain summon all their considerable drive to turn X's "Degenerate Boy" into a pulsating, aggressive beast.

But the new tracks deserve as much attention. These aren't album cast-offs unearthed from the vaults. You Am I's "Cats and Dogs" is a melodic and infectious as anything on Hi Fi Way, while "Gasoline for Two" is an evocative paean to skipping out on a dead-end existence before it swallows you up. The underrated Hoss, whose Joel Silbersher was the teenage author of "My Pal," feature with the plaintive "The Bullshit Never Ends" and Winter Salsa," a desolate cut from Gram Parsons' nightmares.

Not everything works. Mark of Cain's "Hindsight" is just too Nietzche with a backbeat, while Crow's "Halo" is a moment of arch methodry amidst the sense of release surrounding it (thier pulsating cover of Tactics' "Second Language" is far more effective). Around these tunes there's a selection of dialogue, a la Pulp Fiction, and three variations on You Am I's ricocheting instrumental theme. As a soundtrack Idiot Box succeeds in mirroring and bringing to life the film it evolved from. But beyond that it serves as a rollcall for the strength that has, and still does, flow through independent music in this country.

Craig Mathieson